Thursday, August 25, 2016

F For Fake

Year 8, Day 238 - 8/25/16 - Movie #2,433    

BEFORE: And just like that, I've reached the end of the documentary "not quite a week" chain.  Oh, sure, I could have tracked down that one where Johnny Depp interviewed Ralph Steadman, but that's not really my thing.  Plus I sort of know where that was going, after watching Lena Dunham interview Hilary Knight.  No, it's time to move on after this, because there are only 67 movie slots left in 2016, and I've still got a lot of ground to cover.  

I've got 9 days until the next nexus film, which will the next opportunity to check the chain and make sure I'm on track.  I haven't added too many films lately that would affect things, so I think the chain is still good. And then in about three weeks I'll go on break for a while, because I'll hit an obvious lead-in to the horror chain, but it only seems natural to start the horror chain in October, not September.  Even with a break to work at New York Comic-Con, I think I'll have a hard time filling up all of October. 

Which is fine, it just leaves a little more work to be done in November.  The biggest problem right now, however, is that I've checked out the release date for "Rogue One", and since I'm following that with a chain that leads to Christmas, I've calculated that there simply aren't enough days after December 16 for me to reach my Christmas film in time.  I'll have to either rethink things, or I'll have to double-up, or I'll have to cheat. 

Speaking of cheating, here's a whole film about it. 

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Hoax" (Movie #2,332)

THE PLOT: A documentary about fraud and fakery.

AFTER: This fits rather nicely here, because Orson Welles used nearly the exact same words as James Randi did to describe himself: "I'm a faker, a cheat, a charlatan..."  Orson pulls off a bit of magical sleight of hand near the start of the film, amusing a child by appearing to turn a coin into a key, and then back.  But he's probably also referring to filmmaking, which is also a form of magic and lying, when you get right down to it.  The camera zooms in on Orson in front of a white backdrop in a railyard, and after a quick cut to something else, the zoom-out from Orson and the backdrop reveals he's now in a rural field.  (Say what you will about Mr. Welles, but he was always outstanding in his field...)   

But after this bit of editing fakery, Orson then swears to tell only the truth for the next hour - while neglecting to mention that the following film is 90 minutes long.  When does that truth clock run out, exactly?  We are then later reminded of the stunt that first made Mr. Welles famous, or perhaps infamous - the radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' (no relation) "War of the Worlds".  Because at no time while relaying this tale of an alien invasion over the airwaves in 1938 did Mr. Welles reveal that this was only a story, and the Martians were not, in fact, invading.  So, naturally, some people believed that it was real and (allegedly) panicked and headed for the proverbial hills. 

These days, people are much more savvy, right?  I mean, if you turned on the TV and saw footage of aliens attacking, you'd just assume that it was a Hollywood movie, even if you were unfamiliar with the movie and didn't recognize any stars.  (Now, if you pulled that stunt today with terrorists instead of aliens, you might achieve a similar level of panic - but you didn't hear that from me...)  

"F For Fake" turned out to be the last film Orson Welles directed, although after this he went on to make a few TV pilots, appear in "The Muppet Movie" and host a documentary about Nostradamus.  He also did a fair amount of commercial work - his ads for Paul Masson wines, who offered to "sell no wine before its time" were quite successful, while the ads for Findus food products are more well-known for the blooper reel of him complaining about the copy written about frozen peas and the fish with the "crisp crumb coating" - check it out online, you'll thank me later. 

But here Welles set out to investigate a topic I've covered recently, art forgery.  Sessions showing famous forger Elmyr de Hory painting near perfect Matisses and Modligianis over the course of an afternoon, so it CAN be done quickly.  (However, I still maintain that making a perfect Monet forgery could not be done during an all-nighter, as the film "The Forger" suggested.  Why did Welles want to focus on de Hory?  Well, the main theory seems to be that Welles' friend Francois Reichenbach wanted to make a documentary about him, but was having difficulty, so he handed his footage over to Welles, in order so some sense could be made of it. 

A few years earlier, an author had written a biographical book about de Hory, and that man was Clifford Irving - who later got in trouble for writing that FAKE autobiography of Howard Hughes, and then later still he wrote a real book, "Hoax", about making his fake book, and that book got turned into the real film "The Hoax" with the real Richard Gere as the fake Clifford Irving.  Got it?  

The final sequence features Welles and actress Oja Kodar, who was allegedly the muse for Picasso during one magical summer in Ibiza (nearly everyone in this film loves spending time in Ibiza - de Hory, Irving, and no doubt Welles too) and Oja demanded that she get to keep all of the paintings that Picasso made of her.  What's very confusing, though, is that the alleged confrontation between Picasso and Kodar's grandfather is acted out with Orson Welles as Picasso, and Kodar playing her own grandfather.  But this all takes place after the one-hour "truth clock" has run out, so who knows if it ever really happened that way.  

Even in a film that claims to expose fakery, there were facts withheld - like the real reason de Hory went to prison, and it wasn't for art forgery.  Then there's the fact that Oja Kodar was the "muse and companion" of Orson Welles himself (that means he was boinking her) even though he was married to Paola Mori at the time.  Ben Mankiewicz on TCM pointed out that at this point it was a marriage in name only, but still, that doesn't make it right. 

The problem comes with trying to tie together the various threads - "The War of the Worlds" broadcast, the art forgery, the Howard Hughes hoax, and Ms. Kodar pulling a fast one on Pablo Picasso.  Really, the only thing that they all have in common is that Orson Welles found them all interesting, and in the end, that just isn't enough.  We don't learn any larger truth about fakery that comes from finding about all of these things.  I'd rather watch Orson Welles eat 18 hot dogs in one sitting, which he allegedly once did at Pink's in Los Angeles.

So I'm not sure if art is just a lie that helps us to glimpse a greater truth - I just know that this film is on the list of the "1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", and watching it brings me one step closer to possibly watching 400 of them.  (I'm now at 393, with 6 others definitely on my watchlist)

Also starring Orson Welles (last seen in "Catch-22"), Oja Kodar, Francois Reichenbach, Elmyr de Hory, Clifford Irving with cameos from Laurence Harvey, Joseph Cotten (last seen in "Gaslight"), Howard Hughes. 

RATING: 4 out of 10 reaction shots of a monkey

No comments:

Post a Comment